ParentsNext Conference

Recently CHESS Connect were invited to participate in a panel discussion at the annual ParentsNext Conference.

Executive Business and Partnership Development manager Amanda Jennings was asked to share our experience working with ParentsNext participants and collaborating with other local services to deliver the best possible outcomes to families in our region.

We sat down with Amanda to discuss the conference.

Q: Apart from CHESS Connect, who else was represented at the panel?

Mission Australia and Access Community Services – panel discussion centred around collaboration with other local services with a focus on those that assist First Australians and parents from the migrant community.

Focus areas:

  • Suitable activities and locally available services
  • Alternatives for targeted participants to access interpreter services
  • Communities of practice

Q: What were the main topics of discussion at the conference?

The future of Parents Next, ideas shared for best practice, collaboration, provider stories, programme outcomes, how to support parents experiencing domestic violence.

Q: Where there any innovative ideas shared by other services providers on the panel or speakers at the event?

The inspirational key speaker was Bernadette Black CEO of the Brave Foundation. Originally from Melbourne, Bernadette Black lives with her family in Tasmania. She is the CEO and Founding Director of Brave Foundation, qualified nurse, professional speaker and Board Director as well as Ambassador to many community organisations.

Bernie, unexpectedly fell pregnant at 16 and experienced first-hand the stigma associated with a teenage pregnancy and the lack of support and education.

“Throughout my pregnancy, so many people looked at me critically and judgmentally and made me think that I should be embarrassed and ashamed. I desperately searched for support and inspiration from others who had been in my situation but found none,” says Bernadette.

She promised herself three things:

1. That she would be a good mother
2. Complete her education
3. Write a book to help and encourage others in her situation.

Bernadette’s book ‘Brave Little Bear’ is a personal story that details her experience of being a teenage mother to qualifying as a Registered Nurse and ultimately to becoming the Barnardos Australian Mother of the Year.

Bernadette says it’s crucial that children know they’re valued. “If children have that belief in themselves then it doesn’t matter what the world throws at them because they’ll be able to handle it. So I wrote the book to show others that through perseverance and determination you can overcome life’s challenges and fulfil your dreams.”

Of her book, Bernie says “I have written this book hoping that it will bring a message of inspiration, hope and perseverance to people experiencing unexpected pregnancy and parenthood. They will see that their future can be filled with aspirations and dreams for themselves, and now, their new child. Life is the key. Live it well. Dream big, live big and succeed big. It certainly is possible, even in the face of adversity.”

One of the most inspirational and innovative ideas I took from Bernie was her ‘Three Promises’ concept.


It is really important to make yourself 3 personal promises now for after you have your baby. Write down these promises with your teacher or chaplain, and then ask them to help you to work out how to get there. As Bernie Black’s (the CEO of Brave Foundation) year 10 teacher said to her, ‘the journey might be different now, but the destination can stay the same.’ This is the same with you.

These promises can be anything, from becoming a hairdresser, to enrolling in a TAFE course, writing your own story, to becoming Prime Minister! Write these down somewhere special, share with a trusted person and keep it to look at as the years roll on. You will be able to show this to your child one day and tell them your story!

Share your story and three promises with the Brave Foundation:

Q: What was the key takeaway from this years conference?

That Parents Next likely has a future beyond the initial 3 years. The commitment of the Federal Government to the programmes success – large representation of contract managers, senior staff from the Dept, key speakers Minsters Michalia Cash and Ken Wyatt and the importance of connection and collaboration.


Meet the Author

About Amanda Jennings
Amanda is the Executive Manager Business Development for CHESS Employment working to progress initiatives and opportunities to support growth and diversification. With a background in Social Science, Amanda came to Australia 20 years ago having worked with refugees in Sudan and at a welfare clinic in Malawi, Southern Africa.